Comet chess team making all the right moves under new coach

Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer

The winningest team at Mason High School is the one you have never heard of.

Since 2012 the Mason chess team has dominated the Greater Miami Conference (GMC), going 112-3-1, including a 69-game winning streak from the start of the 2012 season and ending in the second game of the 2016 season.

Junior Anagh Kulkarni credits the success to the strong sense of unity present within the team.               

“I think the really important thing is that every member of the team is a team player,” Kulkarni said. “They care about the team’s result more their individual results. Obviously, everyone is trying to do their best and win each game, but if they feel like they have to make a sacrifice in order to further the team’s potential as a whole, everyone is willing to do that. That’s a big part why a record like that happens.”           

Kulkarni said the new coaching style brought by Head Coach Keith Breckenridge has also helped the team in their success.

“The coaching has been really good for us,” Kulkarni said. “For example, this year Coach Breckenridge brought a different style. He treats it like a lot like a Mason sport; he schedules mandatory practices and made jerseys and things like that. That kind of atmosphere really helps the team move forward.”

Mason’s main competition in the the GMC is the Sycamore Aviators. The Comets and Aviators have finished first and second every year since 2013 and is a matchup Kulkarni and the Comets highly anticipate each season.

“We always look forward to Sycamore,” Kulkarni said. “Not to discredit other teams, but Sycamore is definitely the one team that we actually have a big threat of losing to, so we always prepare hard for them and make sure we’re ready.”

Breckenridge coached at Sycamore for 20 years before coaching his first season at Mason this year and believes his players have to be at the top of their game in order to defeat the Aviators.

“As the former coach at Sycamore, I know that they have the same advantages in the GMC that we do,” Breckenridge said. “The main difference however between a match vs. Sycamore and a match against other GMC schools is that it takes our best game, on  each board, to win.  In some other matches, we can sometimes get away with a few mistakes.”

The Comets finished the 2017-18 season with a 15-1 record and secured their sixth GMC championship in seven years. After earning GMC Athlete of the Year in in 2016-17, Kulkarni backed up his performance by winning the award again for the 2017-18 season and was given the highest rating by the U. S. Chess Federation (USCF) in the history of the GMC. Breckenridge emphasized Kulkarni’s unique skillset.    

“Anagh is a tremendous asset to the team,” Breckenridge said. “He has the highest USCF rating of any player in the history of the league. He just won Player of the Year again without a vote; he was the only nominee, which tells you something about what the other coaches think.”

Breckenridge and the Comets have greater aspirations going forward as they have they have the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the country in April at the The USCF National High School Chess Championship in Columbus.

“I hope to have our team compete at the National level,” Breckenridge said. “The USCF National High School Chess Championship is coming to Columbus, April 27th – 29th.  All my players currently have an application to attend in their hands; I’m just waiting to see how many of them are willing to commit to go.”